Anti-Bullying Week is an annual event here in England which aims to raise awareness of bullying of children and young people, and to highlight different ways of preventing and dealing with it. This year, Anti-Bullying Week started on the 17th November and ends tonight – and although I wanted to write this post much, much earlier, I couldn’t let this week pass without talking about some of my favourite books that deal with this subject and why you should read them.
There are a lot more that I haven’t had the chance to read yet – such as Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth (which is on its way to me as we speak!) – but if you’re looking for some recommendations on YA books that deal with bullying in some form, here is my top 5, in no particular order.
Dead Ends by Erin Lange
Dead Ends is probably the best and most memorable book I read in 2014, and I’ve recommended it to so many people since then that I’m genuinely starting to lose count. It was the first book I read from Lange (I picked up her debut, Butter, shortly after) and I fell in love with her writing, her characters, and the way she deals with such difficult topics within a few chapters.
Unlike most of the bullying books I’ve read, though, in Dead Ends we see – and hear – the story from the bully’s perspective. As the Guardian says, “in Dead Ends, we are rooting for the bully – hot-headed thug Dane Washington, who kick-starts the action by unapologetically smashing his foot into “some guy’s throat”. In Dane’s world, violence is justified if people are “asking for it”, the only exception to the rule being girls and ‘retards’.”
Unlucky for Dane, one of these “retards” (Billy D, a young boy with Down’s syndrome) moves into his street with her mum one day, and as it soon turns out, he looks up to Dane. I absolutely loved the way the author described their budding and often stormy friendship, and how much they both changed by the end of the story. I could go on for ever but I’m not going to say any more – I just hope you’ll pick it up. It really is an incredible read.*
*Warning: you’ll need a few boxes of tissues.
Butter by Erin Lange
After reading Dead Ends, I was dying to read the author’s previous book, Butter – and it didn’t disappoint. I have to say, though, that I didn’t like it *quite* as much as Dead Ends (I couldn’t connect to the main character the way I connected with Dane and Billy D) but it’s still a wonderful read, and a great example of high school bullying and the effects it has on the victim. Lange is brilliant at creating raw, emotional stories that will resonate with you and stay with you for a long time, and Butter is no exception.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Wonder is kind of an obvious choice (and since I’ve just realised the main character is actually 10, technically it’d be more like a middle-grade book) but I had to mention it. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s one of the best books about bullying, and even though it’s been a while since I read it, I still remember it vividly.
In Wonder, the main character – 10 year old Auggie – has a severe facial deformity that, until now, has prevented him from going to a regular school and forced him to be home-schooled by his mum. Having to start 5th grade in the middle of term with a bunch of people you’ve never seen is tough in itself, especially when not only are you the new kid at school, but you look completely different than everyone else, too.
Wonder tells the story of Auggie’s struggle of being accepted and finding his way in this new, unknown world. I loved the fact that the story is told by a number of different people (Auggie, his sister, her boyfriend, and even some of Auggie’s classmates), so you get to hear different perspectives and how different people deal with a situation like this.
It really is a classic and, I would say, one of the best books in this genre / topic. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
After reading The Bunker Diary, Kevin Brooks soon became one of my favourite authors – and Black Rabbit Summer is the latest book I read from him. It’s not your typical bullying book in the sense that that’s not what the book focuses on – but it does have a significance.
In Black Rabbit Summer, a character called Raymond disappears along with a former classmate, Stella Ross. And although the story focuses on these two disappearances and the changing dynamics within their group of friends, bullying makes an appearance quite early in the story.
Raymond is a lovely and gentle character who, as he tells his friend Pete, can hear his rabbit talking. Readers can sense that he’s different from everyone else right from the beginning, and unfortunately, so can his classmates. Not only does Raymond have to put up with a neglectful family, but he’s constantly bullied for being different and “odd”.
Although the book is slightly different from the other three on the list and Raymond’s oddity is not what the story is about, I would still recommend it. Brooks is a fantastic writer and Black Rabbit Summer is another page-turner I enjoyed reading this year.